Vitamin D

Vitamin D: foods and drinks could be fortified with the vitamin under new plans

Posted by for Nutrition

One in six adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D.

The benefits of vitamin D have been well publicised over the last couple of years.

The ‘sunshine vitamin,’ as it is often referred to, became a topic of public conversation following claims that it could potentially help to stave off Covid-19 infection. And while there is mixed evidence to support that claim, it certainly brought about increased awareness of what our bodies need to function at their best.

But despite this, the number of adults and children suffering from vitamin D deficiency across the UK has remained worryingly high – a fact that has led the government to take action in the form of a new ‘official review’. 

The study, which is being launched by the health secretary Sajid Javid, will look into whether foods and drinks can be fortified with vitamin D to close health inequalities after it was revealed that one in six UK adults has low levels of the vitamin.

The greater use of supplements will also be examined, with Javid calling on experts and patient groups to come forward with their observations.

In a statement, Javid said the review was part of his aim to break the link between people’s backgrounds and prospects for a healthy life after health officials said that older people, the housebound and people from Black and South Asian communities are more likely to have lower vitamin D levels.

A woman pouring vitamin supplements into her hand
Current advice states that everyone should consider taking a 10mg vitamin D supplement in the autumn and winter.

“I am determined to level up the health of the nation and tackle disparities. People from Black and Asian communities, older people and people who have limited access to the outdoors are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D, which is essential for bone and muscle health and improving years of life lived in good health.

“I have launched this call for evidence to identify innovative ways we can encourage people to increase their vitamin D intake and help people live longer, healthier and happier lives.”

Current advice states that everyone should consider taking a 10mg vitamin D supplement in the autumn and winter, when the low levels of sunlight make it hard for our bodies to produce enough vitamin D on their own. 

Those at high risk of not getting enough vitamin D, all children aged 1 to 4, and all babies (unless they’re having more than 500ml of infant formula a day) are also advised to take a daily supplement throughout spring and summer.

While companies are voluntarily allowed to fortify some foods with key vitamins and minerals, there are only a few examples of mandatory fortification in the UK.

This includes the mandatory addition of folic acid to flour, which was introduced in 2019 to help prevent life-threatening spinal conditions in babies. Fluoride is also added to drinking water in some parts of the UK to reduce levels of dental decay.  

The new call for evidence, which is being launched by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), comes ahead of broader proposals for closing health disparities which are set to be published later this year. 

For more nutrition tips, visit the Strong Women Training Club.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.